Review: The Season, New Wolsey Theatre

Christmas has arrived early in Ipswich this week thanks to new musical The Season, a co-production between the New Wolsey Theatre and Northampton’s Royal & Derngate Theatre. Having opened in Northampton last week, it arrives at the New Wolsey for a limited run.

Written by Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, winners of the 2018 MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award, The Season stars Alex Cardall and Tori Allen-Martin as young couple Dougal and Robin, who meet in the New York City on Christmas Eve. Tim Jackson directs this musical about a young, British man Dougal (Cardall), who arrives in the Big Apple having flown in for 48 hours to attend his estranged father’s wedding. Dougal has never met his dad but has high hopes of bonding with his father and is excited to be in New York, the city of (his) dreams, at Christmas – his favourite time of the year. It’s at JFK airport where he meets the sister of his dad’s fiancée, the festively-named Robin (Allen-Martin), who’s been given the task of getting him safely to his hotel. Robin, a waitress at Bump n’ Grind Coffee, goes out of her way to avoid Christmas and is somewhat dissatisfied with the way her life’s turned out, having been hurt in the past. Despite a frosty reception from Robin, Dougal eventually gets under her skin and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.

With a soundtrack boasting a number of impressive ballads such as ‘Be Happy’ and ‘Good Morning’ and more up-tempo numbers including ‘American Express’, The Season is a hugely enjoyable production from start to finish and the perfect show to see in the run up to Christmas (if you’re not busy booking a flight to New York that is). Though the script may need a few tweaks here and there to ensure consistency in the pacing, Jim Barne and Kit Buchan have written a fresh and convincing two-person show full of witty jokes (“We’re like an old married couple…” Dougal tells Robin as he explains his relationship with his mother. “…we bicker, we do the crossword and we don’t have sex.”) with laugh-out-loud songs about Tinder matches and hangovers adding to the humour. But unlike some Christmas stories, this isn’t a sappy romance, and there’s a healthy dose of angst in amongst the comedy to make a more realistic show.

Both Alex Cardall and Tori Allen-Martin are a joy to watch; their chemistry not only believable but sure to make you smile. Cardall entertains as the enthusiastic and slightly geeky Dougal, eager for the authentic New York experience, and his comic timing is spot on. Allen-Martin has a big, beautiful voice particularly suited to the ballads she delivers perfectly, the emotion she puts into her songs enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Amy Jane Cook’s impressive set brings the Big Apple to life, with subway signs dotted around the stage, not to mention miniature replicas of the Chrysler Building, Empire State and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The stage’s revolve is used to full effect as the young couple make their way across New York City. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting reflects the changing mood perfectly and gives a wintry feel to the production, while Musical Director’ Grant Walsh ensures that the songs are brought to life in style (with the odd sleigh bell to get you into the festive spirit!)

The Season is a warm, entertaining production sure to melt even the iciest of hearts and proves that the future is bright for new British musicals. Boasting a beautiful story, wonderful performances and a worthy soundtrack, this show has a big heart and deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

The Season is playing at the New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday 16 November before returning to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate Theatre from 19 – 30 November.

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Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography 

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